The Accounting Internship That Brought Confidence to a 40-Something Future CPA

By Kerrie L. Russo – October 26, 2016
The Accounting Internship That Brought Confidence to a 40-Something Future CPA

As a full-time student and a full-time mom, an internship didn't seem like an option for me. So after earning a B.S. in accounting and completing the CPA Exam, the next logical step was to find a job.

Following in tradition's footsteps, I prepared a resume, wrote a cover letter and bought the perfect suit. However, what wasn't so traditional was that I was just shy of 46 years young and working to become a full-time accounting intern!

How I Got the Internship

I interviewed with two partners at a firm to discuss my "new found credentials" and how I could contribute to their firm. During the meeting, the Partner in Charge asked me a couple of unexpected questions: Why public accounting and would I be willing to think outside of the box? Enthusiastically, I admitted to being intrigued by the field's dynamic reputation and indicated that my favorite way of thinking was outside the box.

Although they had already hired someone for the upcoming tax season, he suggested I do an internship with them. I thought, what?! It took everything in me to keep smiling. I thanked him and graciously accepted the offer that, at first glance, seemed too bad to be true. Although I interviewed for a staff position and left as an intern, what was initially a huge disappointment ultimately turned out to be a rewarding experience.

What the Internship Taught Me

"Do one thing every day that scares you." – Eleanor Roosevelt

It did not take me long to realize that learning at the office was quite different from learning in the classroom; there was no text book, no syllabus and no make-up test. The safety net was gone! But it didn't take me long to realize that my internship was an integral part of moving forward. It would be up to me to make the most of it. I was inspired by an article I read online that had a very telling message: Minus that which results in death, nothing should hold you back. Every time I was scared to try something, I practiced what the article preached, and I asked myself, "What's the worst thing that could happen?"

How You Can Make the Most Out of Your Internship

Facing challenges includes feeling them. While I anticipated the obvious — learn from experts, sharpen my skills and figure out if public accounting was a good career fit for me — I realized there is also an emotional side to all of this professional development! I had no idea I would also feel lost, proud, experience frustration, embarrassment, elation, be mentally drained and have a sense of accomplishment — sometimes all in the same day.

Remember this: Be kind to yourself.

Adding layers of business savviness with being business casual is a process that requires a lot of patience. Towards the end of my internship, I had lunch with that Partner in Charge who brought me in and gave me a chance. He asked me how I felt about what I experienced over the past several months. We discussed the new found confidence I had gained that gave my credentials a boost.

(Side note: For those of you looking for the right internship in either public or private accounting, be sure to broaden your search by looking for both winter and summer opportunities.)

Kerrie L. Russo

Kerrie L. Russo is a Tax Associate at Grant Thornton LLP. She is a CPA Candidate member of the New Jersey Society of CPAs and a recipient of a 2015 NJCPA CPA One-Year Scholarship.